England scored a totally comprehensive 4-0 victory over Ukraine in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday and set themselves up for a mouth watering semi-final clash against Denmark at Wembley next Wednesday night.
Gareth Southgate’s side maintained their record of not conceding a goal in the tournament so far, the only team to do so. They also stretched their legs in the second half to add three more goals to the opening goal they got after only three minutes of the game.
Ukraine seemed like an exhausted side, obviously affected by the 120 minutes they had to play against Switzerland in Glasgow on Tuesday night. They never remotely looked like causing an upset in Rome.
The stifling weather conditions, 28 degree temperature and 63 % humidity, added to their challenge and apart from a few efforts in the first half, they rarely tested English ‘keeper Jordan Pickford over the 90 minutes.
The back-in-scoring-form Harry Kane got England off to the perfect start. He reacted the quickest to a through ball by Raheem Sterling in the third minute to stab the ball past Heorhiy Bushchan in the Ukraine goal.
The expectation was that England would push on and kill off the game early on but that is not what transpired. Instead they took the foot off the pedal and allowed Ukraine plenty of the ball for long periods of the first half.
On one or two occasion they were sloppy, like when Kyle Walker misplaced a pass and allowed Ukraine dangerman Roman Yaremchuk to drive past John Stones and force Pickford to bat his shot away for a corner.
There was a very slow pace to the game in the opening half and while Ukraine threatened on the occasional break overall England was in total control and seemed to already have an eye on next week’s semi-final.
The game was effectively over in the first minute of the second half when Harry Maguire made in 2-0. Kane was somewhat needlessly fouled with his back to goal. Luke Shaw whipped in the free kick and Maguire thumped a powerful header into the net.
It was a Shaw / Kane combination which then led to the third goal for England. A quick break involving Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount saw the left back get the ball in a wide position and another whipped cross was met by the head of Kane whose downward header gave Bushchan no chance in goals.
Manager Gareth Southgate started to ring the changes early in the second half and it was his first substitute who really put the result beyond doubt in the 62nd minute.
Declan Rice was withdrawn replaced with a like-for-like defensive midfielder Jordan Henderson and he who rose highest to head home Mount’s well struck corner immediately after Bushchan had parried Kane’s excellent volley out for the corner.
At 4-0 the game had turned into a rout and as the substitutions began to roll for England, the game slowed to a pedestrian pace as the English players stroked the ball around at will.
The Three Lions could probably have pushed on to score more goals but they have very much bought into the pragmatic approach adopted by Southgate and the priority for the last 20 minutes was all about conserving energy and not picking up any injuries.
Ukraine was probably not considered a likely quarter finalist at the outset of the tournament so manager Andriy Shevchenko will be reasonably pleased that they were still in Rome on July 3rd while heavy weight teams such as France and Germany had long departed for their holidays.
England will now face probably their toughest challenge yet when the take on Denmark next Wednesday night.
Denmark seems to have been emboldened by the shock around Christian Ericksen’s health so it will make for an intriguing night in Wembley with the winners of that semi-final set to face either Spain or Italy in next weekend’s final.
England: Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, Luke Shaw (Kieran Tripper 63), John Stones, Harry Maguire, Declan Rice (Jordan Henderson 56), Kalvin Phillips (Jude Bellingham 63), Mason Mount, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling (Marcus Rashford 63), Harry Kane (Dominick Calvert – Lewin 73).
Subs not used: Sam Johnstone (gk); Aaron Ramsdale (gk); Tyrone Mings, Jack Grealish, Conor Coady, Ben Chilwell, Phil Foden.
Ukraine: Heorhiy Bushchan; Mykola Matviyenko, Serhiy Kryvtsov ( Viktor Tsygankov 35), Illia Zabarnyi, Vitaily Mykolenko, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Oleksandr Karavaev, Serhiy Sydorchuk ( Marlos Bonfim 62), Mykola Shaperemko, Roman Yaremchuk, Andriy Yarmolonko.
Subs not used: Andriy Pyatov (gk); Anatolli Trubin (gk); Yehven Makarenko, Artem Dovbyk, Roman Bezus, Eduard Sobol, Taras Stepanenko, Heorhii Sudakov, Oleksandr Tymchyk, Oleksandr Zubkov.
Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)
Extratime.com Player of the Match: Harry Kane (England)